Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
Six years ago, Reggie Bush (while playing at Southern Cal under then-head coach Pete Carroll) violated an NCAA eligibility rule by accepting money from a professional sports agent.
The NCAA unfortunately has a very difficult task when it comes to situations such like this, where the infractions are being addressed several years after they actually took place. The people guilty of committing infractions are no longer under the governing body’s rule. Therefore, there is very little that can be done to hold the actual guilty parties accountable.
While the NCAA does still retain the authority to penalize a program, the NCAA must also be very careful about the way punishments are implemented because the people who will be most greatly affected by the punishment are those currently in the program, who had nothing at all to do with the infractions that took place.
To avoid a situation where the children must pay too greatly for the sins of the parents, the NCAA has stripped away any recognition for what the football program did during the season infractions take place, and has banned the program from participating in post-season football for the two years following the discovery of infractions.
Although I would like to see a more aggressive partnership between the NFL and the NCAA so that guys like Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll don’t get to walk away virtually unscathed (don’t forget, Bush gave back his Heisman Trophy, it wasn’t taken from him), this is actually a very fair and just punishment to be levied on the program.
The institution suffers by missing out on the exposure and profits of playing post-season football, but the impact to the athletes and coaches CURRENTLY within the program will be extremely minimal. They will not get to play in a bowl game for the next couple of years, which is unfortunate, but they will retain every other benefit that comes from playing at a major university.
So, why take the punishment a step further by banning the program from consideration when ranking the top 25 teams in the nation?
Rankings and Bowls are Independent of Each Other
If there were only 25 bowl invitations extended every year, and those 25 invitations were offered to the top 25 teams in the nation, I would completely agree with a ban on ranking to accompany the ban on bowl eligibility. But that is simply not the case.
The national rankings serve as a gauge of which are the best 25 programs in the nation, not the best 25 bowl eligible programs. Last season there were 43 teams that played in bowl games and were not ranked in the top 25. What does USC being considered for a national ranking now have to do at all with bowl eligibility?! Absolutely nothing!
Just because a team is ineligible to play in the post-season does not mean it does not deserve consideration as being one of the best teams in the country.
If Alabama was banned from 2010 bowl eligibility it would not change the fact that it is the best team in the nation right now. Why try to ignore, cover up, or alter that fact by producing a fraudulent ranking written as though Alabama did not exist? It would completely devalue the entire ranking process.
Southern Cal, bowl eligible or not, is going to remain in contention as one of the 25 best football programs in the country. Any attempt to disregard or ignore that fact is pointless.
You Can’t Penalize the Wrong People!
It is important that the current active members of the USC organization are not penalized too harshly for the rule-breaking of the predecessors. But, there is another group that would also be unfairly punished if USC were to be banned from ranking eligibility – opponents.
That’s right. Banning USC from consideration for a national ranking is actually penalizing every single team that USC would play while they were under that ban. Why? Because there is greater prestige associated with playing and potentially beating a ranked team.
Think about what the Washington Huskies accomplished last weekend. Which sounds better – beating USC, the team banned from bowls AND rankings, or beating USC, the team ranked as the 18th best in the nation?
When the BCS rolls around, and a team that beats USC is potentially jockeying for position within the BCS standings, should they not be given full credit for defeating one of the 25 best programs in the nation? It is not their fault (nor is it their concern) that USC is banned from bowl games. But if you take away USC’s ability to be ranked, you essentially rob their opponents of the credit they deserve for competing against one of the best teams in the nation.
A Rankings Ban Adds No Value
What could possibly be gained by stripping a ranking away from USC this season?
Whether they are bowl eligible or not, they are still potentially one of the best football teams in the nation. The ONLY benefit gained by removing the ranking is that the team that is ACTUALLY the 26th best could be artificially bumped into a ranking they did not earn, nor deserve. That minor, arbitrary alteration would come at a far greater cost to USC players today (who were only 13 and 14 years old when Reggie Bush broke the rules) and their opponents (who deserve full credit for beating a major football program).
Taking away USC’s ability to earn a national ranking is the same as banning them from playing at all this season. Their opponents gain nothing by playing them, and their current athletes would have absolutely nothing to show for all of their hard work this season.
They were banned from the POST-season, not the REGULAR season. Let the regular season play out as it should, and when bowl season rolls around USC will serve its punishment accordingly.